2019 | Week of October 7 | #1328
Years ago in Michigan my family was friends with Casey and Roberta Rost. Their children, two sons and a daughter, were all a few years older than I; so as teens and young adults we didn’t run together, but our parents did. The Rost family had a summer home near where we lived and came to our church when they were up our way. I vividly recall many times my folks socialized with them at church, on the golf course and in each other’s homes. They were fun people who shared our faith and many of my folks’ interests.
I knew Casey owned some funeral homes in the Detroit area. And I knew son Tom was preparing to be involved with him in the business. I remember thinking many times that Christians were really the best people to own funeral homes because Christians, all things being equal, should be the best equipped to deal with grieving people with respect, compassion and real help during a difficult time. I knew the Rost family well enough to know they exemplified true Christian faith in both their personal and in their public and professional lives. I had no doubt they treated everyone involved with decency and respect.
I hadn’t thought about the Rost family for a long time—since Casey came to visit my dad in late 2003 just before dad passed away. And then sometime last year a lawsuit involving a Christian funeral home owner in Detroit caught my attention—and all these memories came together as I realized that it was Tom Rost, now owner of Harris Funeral Homes, who was being targeted by the LGBTQ crowd and who was standing up for what he believed. While I was surprised this was someone I knew, I wasn’t surprised Tom Rost was appropriately defending himself and his rights—on behalf of all of us.
This week Tom’s case will be argued before the US Supreme Court—and it is a very significant case. In fact, our organization is part of a friend-of-the-court brief in this case, supporting Tom and his funeral home.
Harris Funeral Homes has served grieving families in the Detroit area for more than 100 years. The organization has always maintained professional codes of dress and conduct to ensure that families focus on processing their grief rather than on the funeral home and its employees. That is why the funeral home prohibits flashy clothing and has a sex-specific dress code, consistent with industry standards and as federal law allows.
In 2007, the funeral home hired a male employee, Anthony Stephens, as a funeral director–a position that serves as the face of the funeral home and works closely with the grieving families Harris Funeral Homes serves. Stephens agreed to follow all employment policies, including the sex-specific dress code. Six years later, Stephens told Tom he planned to begin presenting and dressing as a woman at work while interacting with grieving families.
Tom was concerned for Stephens. He also considered the interests of the grieving families he serves and his female employees who would be sharing the women’s restroom with Stephens. Tom decided he could not agree to Stephens’s plan and released him.
This prompted the EEOC, a federal agency, to sue Tom to redefine the word sex in federal law to mean “gender identity.” Even though the federal government has since changed its position in this case and now supports the funeral home, the ACLU intervened and argues that the Supreme Court should uphold the lower court opinion redefining “sex” discrimination in federal law.
What’s at stake in this case is whether Americans can rely on what the law says. Currently federal law says sex refers to one’s innate, unchangeable biological sex, not “gender identity,” which is just a matter of what a person wants or thinks. Redefining sex to mean “gender identity” punishes Harris Funeral Homes which is totally within its right to differentiate between men and women in its dress code. Redefining sex to include “gender identity” also will create unfair and even unsafe situations for women and girls. In addition, it puts employers in unfair situations, sacrifices freedom of conscience, and endangers freedom of speech.
Tom Rost, aided by his attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom, is standing up for the rights and freedoms of all of us, not just for himself and his business. It’s what I would expect Tom to do based on the family he comes from. To me, Tom Rost is a hero. Tom’s dad, Casey, passed away at age 100 just this past April. I am very sure this father was proud of his son for conducting the business in ways that honor God and for now standing up for the truth and for freedom in a way that takes real courage and real faith in the God he loves and serves.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council, reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”